The afternoon of November 4 arrived in midtown Manhattan like any other Saturday. Families breezed in and out of shops and restaurants along Fifth Avenue. Couples chatted on benches in Central Park, enjoying the crisp autumn air. You could easily be forgiven for not knowing that a protest billed Friday by Fox News as the “Antifa Apocalypse” was gathering on the south side of Times Square.
The so-called November 4 protests, which took place in cities across the country today, hosted by a nascent protest group called Refuse Fascism, will likely be remembered more for what they did not look like, than what they did.
In Times Square, by 2:30 PM, a half-an-hour after the New York City event was supposed to begin, a little more than 300 people showed up, according to NYPD officers tasked with securing it. Many of the signs Refuse Fascism had prepared sat stacked against a metal railing. Organizers handed out leaflets about the Revolutionary Communist Party, an older, radical group with ties to Refuse Fascism. Over a thousand people had previously committed to going to the November 4 protests on Facebook, and roughly five thousand had pledged interest, but when all was said and done, burgeoning leftist groups like Democratic Socialists of America (DSA), protest mainstays like Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) and the masked anarchists that had captured the imagination of people on the far right failed to attend.
A handfull of Trump supporters showed up to counter the demonstration. In the words of Christopher Lehmann, a 56-year-old Trump supporter who made the trip from Belmar, New Jersey to counter the event, “I thought there would be more of them. I thought there would be more of us too.” Lehmann, who brought an American flag and wore a jacket with “Trump” written across the back in big letters, said that “someone had to come to support the president.” The stated goal of the protest was, according to Refuse Fascism, to create a sustained movement on the streets to remove Trump’s administration from office.
The group ran an ad in The New York Times on page five this week: “The TRUMP/PENCE REGIME MUST GO! NOV 4. It Begins. BE THERE. JOIN WITH THE THOUSANDS. RefuseFascism.org,” it proclaimed in stark black and white.
“What Trump and his administration are doing could pose an existential threat to humanity,” Andy Zee, a member of the advisory board for Refuse Fascism told Newsweek in a phone interview about the ad. “We’re in one of the most perilous moments in history right now.”
Ultimately, however, very few attendees that spoke to Newsweek claimed to have been aware of the ad or drawn in by it. Harriet Russmeyer, 89, claimed to have heard about it through neighbors, and decided to show up. She claimed to have no knowledge about Refuse Fascism, or the Revolutionary Communist Party.
“I wanted to do something against Trump,” Russmeyer told Newsweek. “The lies and the incredibly backward worldview he has.”
Alex Jones held a livestream broadcast yesterday. His website led with the headline “Nov 4th: Antifa Launches Communist Revolution in United States.”
Jack, a 25-year-old spokesperson for Refuse Fascism, who asked not to use his last name, told Newsweek that he wasn’t concerned by the attendance of the event, and that it was just the beginning of removing Trump from office.
“We always want more people,” Jack said. “This is just the first day.”